When we conduct our self defense seminars whether that be in high schools, privately, corporately or to a group of women, it is common for many questions to come up in regards to being attacked by the stranger lurking in an alley, on a path, or on the side of the road if your car breaks down when in fact people should look much closer to home, and most times in their own home. Of course there are attacks committed by strangers, but the vast amount of time the attack will take place by someone known to the victim whether that be a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or acquaintance. The statistics do vary, but regardless of where I have found them, they all seem to agree that you are more likely to be attacked by someone known. For example, on the RAINN website, https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence they state that 45% of the time you are attacked by an acquaintance and 25% by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend meaning that 7 out of 10 times the attacker is known to the victim. If you go to the POP Center site, http://www.popcenter.org/problems/sex_assault_women/ they show statistics claiming 83% of the time the attacker is known to their victim and 21% of the time it is a stranger. So while 1 out of 5 times the attacker may be a stranger which is still significant, it does pale in comparison to the fact that the attacker is generally known at some level. Let's look further at who an acquaintance may be because I think most people have a much easier time defining who is really known to them than who an acquaintance may be.
Who is an acquaintance? The dictionary states that an acquaintance is someone who is known slightly, but is not a close friend. Here is where an attacker becoming your acquaintance may be an effective strategy if there is intent to make you their victim. For some an acquaintnce could be someone you have bumped into at a party and exchanged a few words, someone who has worked on building your deck, or even someone you have just smiled at in a room with other people known at an event. I have asked many people this question, "What if your intution told you that you something was not right and you had the choice of asking for help from a complete stranger or someone you saw just once and smiled at, but never exchanged words. Who would you go to for help?" My best recollection is that 100% of the time people have told me they would go to the person they have seen before, even if they have spoken a word with them. I find it fascinating that many people equate simply having seen someone as being more trusting than someone they have never seen before. This simple examples shows why a potential attacker might try to become an acquaintance of yours because they know building the smallest amount of commonality or trust is smart in order to find their opportunity to make you their victim. They know you are much less likely to trust your gut and speak up in a scenario even if you feel uncomfortable due to the appearance of being rude. I have often spoken up how attackers often choose people who are overly polite and they have strategies to determine if you are one of these people.
And then there is the example of the acquaintance who may be a person working in or around your home. Use the scenario of hiring someone to build a deck or addition to your house. You are likely going to have many conversations with them and I would bet many people end up giving up many personal details in one of the casual conversations you have with them without even realizing it. There is an excellent chance they will meet other members of your family which can be a concern if you have kids. What if your child tells you that the guy working on the deck gives them the creeps, but they can't explain why? I bet most people just tell their child to avoid the person cause the work is almost done and we would not want to cause any embarrassment by addressing it. You might even tell your child not to worry cause they are only here a few more days then you never have to see them again. Hmmm...sounds crazy to some, but I will bet that most people approach it this way. The fear of offending people and doing or saying nothing despite gut feelings or evidence is a huge issue in my opinion in regards to safety.
Here is an example of many stories you can find where a repairman came to the home to do some work and it resulted in tragedy. Now I do not know the people in this story and have no idea if they had ever met the guy, but I do hear many people who have told me they consider some of the people who have worked in their homes as acquaintances. http://cbs12.com/news/local/repairman-attacks-woman-restrains-children-during-air-conditioning-repair-visit
Or here is another story of a handyman who had done previous work so most would consider him an acquaintance http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2946860/Kansas-City-woman-speaks-attack-handyman.html
Ever been to a party, met many people and even had a in-depth conversation with someone? Most people consider the person they spoke with to, to now be an acquaintance saying something like, "What a great guy! He was so easy to talk to and very interesting." Remember, someone you have had a conversation with is usually going to try and put their best image forward, but by no means do you know them. In fact, many attackers are very charming people who fit very well into society. Now again, this does not mean you need to be wary of every person you speak to at a party of course, but just understand you DO NOT know them and they should be treated as cautiously as anyone you do not know.
In the future I may blog specifically about hiring people to do work or dealing with service people at your front door whether they are expected or not, but for this blog I wanted to focus on acquaintances and how we define who an acquaintance is. Remember the dictionary definition is that an acquaintance is known slightly, not well known. An acquaintance is not going to normally share their personal life with you particulary any demons they may be dealing with or incidents of violence. I suggest you treat an acquaintance as you would a stranger and not let your guard down because you truly do not know them. And once you might consider them a friend, still remember that most attacks are by someone known to you. The goal of this is not to make you paranoid of everyone, but understand it is not normally the complete stranger who you need to be aware of in regards to your strategy, but those you know very well or consider an acquaintance.
Managing Director, SAFE International